Research cluster hires boost faculty diversity

A program to enhance UIC’s diversity of faculty and research is starting to take shape.

The Chancellor’s Cluster Initiative to Increase Diversity and the Interdisciplinary Culture at UIC was launched four years ago by Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares to foster collaborative study and facilitate hiring that represents the UIC community.

After two competitive proposal phases, seven panel-approved clusters were established:

• Diaspora Studies
• Global Urban Immigration
• Integrative Neuroscience
• Middle East and Muslim Societies
• the Racialized Body
• Social Justice and Human Rights
• Health Promotion for Racially and Ethnically Diverse Older Adults.

The initiative is “building a community of scholars that enhance the educational experience of our students, build global leadership and broaden the array of backgrounds, ideas and disciplines represented among our faculty,” Allen-Meares said.

“It is a bold and rigorous mechanism for UIC to fulfill its mission,” she added.

Cultural anthropologist Nadine Naber and artist Laurie Jo Reynolds are among the eight new hires to date.

Before joining the Diaspora Studies cluster in fall 2013, Naber was at the University of Michigan, where she co-founded Arab American studies, an ethnic studies unit within the program in American culture.

Her expertise meets “a critical need with new courses and programming on the experiences of Arab and Muslim diasporas in the United States and transnational feminisms and feminist knowledge,” said Lynette Jackson, associate professor of gender and women’s studies and African American studies.

Naber, co-principal investigator with Jackson, has a Council for Excellence in Teaching and Learning grant for curriculum development. She works closely with students on issues related to activism and community engagement.

Reynolds, who joins UIC this month, is an artist and policy advocate with 20 years of work on negative representations of people in prison. As a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow, she worked to stop sexual abuse and reduce crime recidivism.

She has been involved with several projects related to Tamms Correctional Center — the defunct supermax prison in Southern Illinois designed for sensory deprivation — including Tamms Year Ten, a volunteer legislative campaign to reform or close the prison.

Jennifer Brier, co-principal investigator of the Social Justice and Human Rights cluster, said Reynolds will expand the cluster’s reach.

“Laurie Jo’s use of art to slow and even stop mass incarceration is not only respected among fellow artists, but puts her at the center of activists’ circles that focus on social justice and human rights,” said Brier, director of gender and women’s studies.

Other new hires include Chieh Chang, associate professor of biological sciences; Andreas Feldmann, associate professor of Latin American and Latino studies and political science; Roderick Ferguson, professor of African American studies and gender and women’s studies; Patrisia Macías-Rojas, assistant professor of sociology and Latin American and Latino studies; and Kamal Sharma, associate professor of anatomy and cell biology. Another scholar, J. Lorenzo Perillo, will join Asian American studies as an assistant professor in August.

The initiative is supported by the Cluster Implementation and Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Saul Weiner, professor and vice provost of planning and programs, and Beth Richie, professor and director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy.

The group of more than a dozen faculty and administrators was appointed by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost.  

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